A man, his illness and what they say

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The White House – the presidential power in the United States – revolves around one person, the president. Pretty obvious. Yet with Donald Trump, it is even more the case: everything starts from him and everything comes back to him. It will be empty without him in the Oval Office.

One of our shameful pleasures: face to face with the president. Few things seem to please him so much. In a press conference or in a spontaneous scrum, I’ve never seen him at a loss for words on any topic, no matter what.

It is hardly surprising, moreover, that we no longer mention the briefings from the State Department or the Pentagon. They have become rare, and, in any case, they risked, once in two, to be contradicted on the following days by the president.

As proof, the recent declarations of Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for the control and prevention of diseases, on remote access to a vaccine against Covid or those of Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, on the new interference of Russia in the presidential election. Donald Trump’s reactions: they don’t know what they’re talking about.


Because Trump is Trump and we are thirty days away from the presidential election, daredevil would be the one who dares to predict what is to come. However, the 231 years of the American presidency have seen their fair share of incapacitated leaders: heart attacks, infected … and shot at point blank range.

Woodrow Wilson is a fascinating case. He almost died of the “Spanish flu” in the midst of post-World War I peace negotiations. Exhausted, he is accused of not having had the strength to resist the demands of the then French President, Georges Clémenceau, who demanded exorbitant reparations from Germany. Twenty years later, Adolf Hitler exploited these resentments to start a new war. Nasty responsibility.

Dwight Eisenhower also has a lot to talk about. Victim of a heart attack in 1955, he spent seven weeks in hospital. Defying the advice of his doctors, he was elected for a second term, was diagnosed and operated on for Crohn’s disease in 1956 before having a stroke in 1957. Let’s say business of state had a bad shift. hour.


The story of James Garfield is classified in horror films. In 1881, sworn in for barely four months, he was in a Baltimore station when Charles Guiteau opened fire in his direction.

He could have, it is said, survived his injury, but the well-meaning train station doctors made his case worse, dipping their fingers into the hole left by the bullet, trying to extract it. Garfield died two months later in terrible pain.

Fortunately, today we have no doubts about the expertise of Donald Trump’s doctors, but we can be wary of the reports of his spokespersons. Juggling the truth about the president’s health is an old sport in America and I bet, knowing them, this White House will play the game happily.

Presidents struck by disease … and fate

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)

He suffered from chronic back pain, requiring a powerful cocktail of drugs.

Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961)

He suffered a heart attack in 1955, initially diagnosed with indigestion.

Victim of Crohn’s disease in 1956, then of a stroke in 1957.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)

He hid the severity of his polio throughout his presidency for fear of being seen as weak.

Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)

Victim of a major stroke in October 1919 from which he never really recovered, it was his wife Edith who discreetly led the affairs of state for the last seventeen months of his presidency.

James Garfield (1881)

He was injured by a gunman in Baltimore. Doctors there infected him while trying to remove the bullet with their fingers.

William Harrison (1841)

After giving his swearing-in speech – the longest in history: one hour 45 minutes – in cold rain without a hat or coat, he developed a cold that quickly escalated into pneumonia. About thirty days later, he became the first president to die in office.

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